April 15th, 1954, 56 years ago I was born. My parents, Fred and Wilma (yep..that is really their names) were 25 and 29 on that day. I was named Karen Leigh Sasser. My godmother, Frances was delighted with my name after hearing some of the names my mother was debating over. My dad had just celebrated his birthday the day before the big event. I spent my first three years in a basement apartment owned by Ethyl Berry. She was like my grandmother and I adored her. We lived there until my brother Dougie was one and then we moved into the house next door to the apartment. I was not quite four. We lived there on Georgia Avenue, right across the street from what was then Palm Beach High School. It was a perfect place to be a child. There was a bakery on one end of the block and a candy store/snack bar at the other end. My church was a block behind our house. The bus stopped on both ends of the block. I loved life there.
When I was young music was very important to me. That has not changed a whole lot in the past 56 years. I got my first guitar when I was not quite 4. It was not much of one but I loved it.This picture was made in the basement apartment. It was not much of an apartment, by today's standards...but I can assure you there was a lot of love in that tiny two bedroom, one bath apartment....a lot of love. My dad was in apprenticeship school then and we had one car...can you believe that? One car? It was a 1940 something chevy...yucky green colored. It had to be rolled down the hill to start sometimes. My dad was a great electrician...he was never much of a mechanic. He used to say he was a jack of all trades - master of none...but that was not true...he was a Master Electrician....and Dad.
From Georgia Avenue we moved to El Prado in the Vedado Park neighborhood. It was there that I attended Belvedere Elementary School, Conniston Junior High, and Forest Hill High School. It was there that I made my first children friends. Dougie and I were the only kids on Georgia Avenue. El Prado brought Carol, Susan, Kathy and a whole host of other kids into my life. Life was good on El Prado until January 5th, 1963. My brother died just 16 days shy of his 6th birthday. When I look back at these old pictures I see a ragamuffin little girl. I was such a tom boy and really hated wearing dresses. My mom was an excellent seamstress and made the majority of my clothes. What I would not give to have THAT mom back again. The material was some she had bought on a visit to my grandparents in Alexander City. It came from the Avondale Mill Store. It was called seconds because there was a flaw somewhere in the fabric. I remember one dress she made for me that had a foot print on the underside of the fabric. It was amazing what she could do with a needle and some thread. By now my dad was working for Arrow Electric. He was a Union man....with the IBEW(International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.) I lived and breathed for that Arrow Suburban to come down our street.
When I was in the sixth grade I was a school safety patrol and got to go to Washington, DC. It was the biggest event of my life, at that point. Carol also got to go. We were roommates at the Shoreham Hotel during our stay there. Can you believe that the two of us are only 6 months apart in age? I was 5'5 in the 6th grade...and never grew another inch. Carol was not even 5 foot at the time. We looked like Mutt and Jeff don't you think? This picture was made in front of her house. How do I remember this? She had a sidewalk....we didn't. Carol and I both played guitars back in the day. When we were in elementary school we dressed up like the Beatles one year for the Halloween parade. We were awesome. We also made guitars before we had real ones and would put on shows for our parents. We sang together as teens with New Dawn and were dubbed the Hick Duet when we performed our first duet in church...the song..."Put Your Hand in the Hand." I have never sung that song again...and blush anytime I hear it. Larry Bergstrom, Kenny Bergstrom, and Jim Warren made so much fun of us that night. It is a wonder I ever sang in public again....but I did.
Kathy Duck, Donna McAdams, Carol and I on her wedding day. I sang at her wedding in 1975. She has been married for 35 years. That is astounding in today's world. Don't you love the dresses....very 70's don't you think? Carol was a beautiful bride. We all went our separate ways over the years. Carol is really the only one of these four that I kept up with. I moved to Alabama...and my life took a different road. I have carried them in my heart though...all these years. I have often wondered where the other two are and what they became. I sang at most of my friends weddings. I even sang at Chuck and Susan's wedding...but that is a story all to itself. I will have to tell you one day.
On my 55th birthday last year the group I sing with, Still Magnolias, opened for George Jones. How cool is that. If you don't know who he is....he is a Country Music legend....sleezy...but a legend just the same and I opened for him. Life just keeps getting better and better. Although this year has been a hard one...I survived. I can't believe a whole year has passed and now I am looking at another year older...how blessed I have been. I have such good friends and two wonderful daughters. I am the luckiest person alive I believe. I have not always made the best decisions and life has not always been perfect. Heck! It has been a far cry from a bowl of cherries....but I get out of those pits and move on quickly I can assure you.
So here I am today....at the ripe age of 56. What does life hold for me? Only God knows. I am attending a retirement seminar today....that is not in my far to distant future. I have enjoyed the first 56 years and cannot wait for what the next half brings. In the years since I left Florida I have attended Auburn and Auburn at Montgomery, Alabama, and Whitman College in Washington state. I married a wonderful man, Frank, who is like one of my best friends. I became a preacher's wife and love that roll. I have made many friends whom I love dearly. I have a wonderful job at Benjamin Russell High School where I teach. I sing with Still Magnolias, I travel with Mary, Kat, Debo, and Amanda every chance I get. I sing in the Arbor Praise and Worship band, I bowl on two leagues....I enjoy every moment of life there is...and would not want it any other way. Happy Birthday to me and I wish you all a wonderful Thursday! XXOO